Thursday, 11 October 2018

Gawain Again

Three years ago I began working with Clive Hicks-Jenkins and Dan Bugg on a new project: to create a set of prints devoted to 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'. Clive loved Simon Armitage's translation of the wily old poem, so it is exciting and rather extraordinary to see that Faber are publishing this new edition of the Armitage text, complete with Clive's illustrations.

Gawain has inspired numerous artists over the years, but none is quite like Clive. He has created his own visual language which reflects both the medieval magic of the old poem and the sophisticated play of the translation. Putting poem and images together is an inspired move by the publisher.

Definitely one for the Christmas wishlist...

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Hokusai and Hiroshige in Bristol

Hokusai, Fine Wind Clear Morning, 1830-32
If you happen to be in Bristol this autumn I recommend a visit to the exhibition of woodblock prints by Hokusai and Hiroshige at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. The exhibition is in three parts, with the first group of works on display until January. As I understand it, the prints belong to the museum but generally spend their days in storage - the fate of most works on paper in our conservation-sensitive times.

They are, to quote Arthur in the radio sitcom Cabin Pressure, brilliant! I must admit that I tend to pick up books of, say, Hokusai's '36 Views of Mount Fuji', and lose interest fairly rapidly. In reproduction I think you lose the texture and subtlety of the original prints, which are wonderfully delicate. You could imagine them breaking free from their mounts and fluttering off down Park Street like exquisite insects.

Although the influence of these artists on 19th and 20th century European art has always been acknowledged (most notably perhaps by Van Gogh), I'm not sure we quite appreciate how great that influence was. But then Hokusai and his followers also owed a debt to Western art, particularly Dutch painting and print-making, which found its way into Japanese culture during the 17th and 18th centuries via the Dutch trading post at Dejima, Nagasaki.

Masters of Japanese Prints: Hokusai and Hiroshige Landscapes is at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery until January.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Artist Couples Exhibition comes to Bristol!

© 1961 estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy Henrietta Garnett. Photo credit: RWA (Royal West of England Academy)

For the past three years I've been working with director Alison Bevan and the curatorial staff at the Royal West of England Academy, putting together an unusual kind of exhibition. There's a clue in the title - In Relation: Nine Couples who Transformed Modern British Art

The exhibition brings together some of the most significant artists and designers who worked in C20 Britain, but what really matters here is that we're looking at the subject in a new way. We know that artists are influenced by their illustrious predecessors and by new ideas, but what happens when two artists share their everyday life together? How is the work and career of each one affected by the other?

Because these relationships are often undocumented - you don't write letters to someone you live with - it's easy to overlook them, yet it is clear that in some cases the course of British art in the 20th century was significantly influenced by the romantic entanglements of these artists. This exhibition gives people a chance to look at pictures by, say, Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, and think about the similarities and differences.

Fans of Eric Ravilious will enjoy 'Painted Dresser', a watercolour that has never been shown publicly before, and there's also an opportunity to view rarely seen work by his wife Tirzah Garwood. There are some cracking loans from Tate and the National Portrait Gallery, including a lovely portrait of Vanessa Bell by Duncan Grant and the gorgeous double portrait '1933 St Remy' by Ben Nicholson. Two beautiful Barbara Hepworth sculptures, rare early works by Mary Fedden and even a woman's wedding suit made from block-printed fabric by celebrated 1930s designers Barron and Larcher.

The full list of artists is as follows:

Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth; Laura and Harold Knight; Dod and Ernest Procter; Eric Ravilious and Tirzah Garwood; Robert MacBryde and Robert Colquhoun; Rose and Roger Hilton; Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, Mary Fedden and Julian Trevelyan; Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher.

We're hanging next week and the exhibition opens on June 16. If you can't make it or you'd like a souvenier, there's a concise but beautifully produced catalogue. So why not come to Bristol and enjoy a day out in our wonderful city...

A Walk Through Bawden's World

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Edward Bawden at the All Saints Arts Festival

Edward Bawden, The Showboat at Baghdad, 1944
Quick diary date... on 25 May I'm giving my lecture 'Edward Bawden: Artist & Adventurer' at the inaugural All Saints Festival in Maldon, Essex. Is that where the sea salt comes from? I expect I'll find out. Anyway, if you're in the area and want to come along you will just have time to whizz to Dulwich Picture Gallery and see the Bawden exhibition (opens 23 May) beforehand. Or you could go along in a more leisurely manner afterwards...

Other Bawden-related events in the Upcoming Lectures over here >>>>